Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 06 – Getting a Grip

When will Nishikata learn that no amount of training will prepare him for the mind games Takagi plays on him? Not this week, as he revives their gym challenge (which he also lost last year). The thing is, even though he sucks at toe touches and fails the grip test due to imagining he’s holding her hand, Takagi still technically loses. She just gets him to admit defeat before she tells him he has a higher score. Better luck next year, I guess!

With Nishikata’s after-school committee work done and the class camping trip looming, Takagi picks up on his desire to leave school together (even though he doesn’t want it to look like he wants to, she reads his mind) and they practice one-on-one dodgeball. Again, Nishikata’s proficiency with dodging does him no good, as Takagi first tricks him by making him turn his back, then gets into the weeds about whether he’ll dodge or catch, causing him to ask, again and again, “We’re talking about dodgeball, right?”

When the three girls stop at a sweets shop after work for some snacks, a black-and-white cat inexplicably swipes a piece of candy Mina just gave to Yukari after her stomach growled, and the girls give enthusiastic chase through various obstacles. The athletic Sanae is the only one able to keep up, but when she finds the cat giving the snack to three adorable kittens, she gives up and tells the others she lost track of her. Clearly, the mama cat needed it more than Yukari!

Takagi and Nishikata end up at the same sweets shop, where Takagi proceeds to buy the opposite of everything Nishikata picks out, so that they can exchange with each other later. After the dodgeball Nishikata is also hungry, so he buys a cup of noodles to eat in-store, and Takagi does the same. This marks the first time just the two of them are out to eat, which Takagi observes makes it a date—inducing a hot ramen spit take from Nishikata.

He’s confident he can deny to anyone who sees them that they are on a date (i.e. intentionally spending time and sharing a meal together one-on-one), but when his two nerdy friends enter the shop, they slink in, make their purchases, and slink out without saying a word, as if no denial from Nishikata would even matter. They know what they saw!

With that, Takagi expresses her excitement about the coming camping trip, implying it will be yet another new setting for new forms of teasing (i.e. flirting). Kudos to Takagi for finding new ways to expand their interactions despite his outward reluctance, as well as to Nishikata for inwardly admitting it probably was a date they were having then and there.

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Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 05 – Kyun Kyuun!

The Strong, Silent Type—That’s what Nishikata aims to be one day, not giving Takagi an opening to tease him, like the Dandy of the Old West, another show he watches. Of course, Nishikata always has an opening: his ticklish sides.

Also, Takagi is a fan of Dandy too, so the two play a game involving questions: the first person who can’t answer gets a bang—in this case, more tickling. Takagi asks loaded questions about her crush, who naturally can’t answer them.

In a short aside, Mina (who also watches Dandy) is thought by Yukari and Sanae to be kind due to her thick eyebrows, but since she initially thinks they’re mocking her, she says something very unkind about Yukari’s bangs that can’t really be taken back!

When Yukari has to flag Nishikata down for after-school committee activities, she feels bad about separating him and Takagi. When she sees him counting on his hand, she imagines he’s lamenting how many days he hasn’t been able to walk home with Takagi; in reality, he’s counting how many times she’s teased him, which is lower than usual due to their being apart.

Still, they don’t stay apart long, as when Nishikata’s birthday arrives and he’s sent out to pick up his birthday cake from the bakery, who does he run into but Takagi, once again resplendent in street clothes. Nishikata thinks going to get your own cake is pathetic, so tries to lie about where he’s going, but fails, because Takagi is headed to the same place.

Nishikata lets Takagi go ahead of him at the counter, hoping, for a moment, she’ll pick up her order and leave. Then he suddenly realizes it’s highly unlikely she’d actually do that! Instead, she takes his hand and places her order in it; it’s for him, as a gift for correctly guessing she was headed for the cake shop (But also because she knew it was his birthday, since she’d ordered ahead of time).

Once home, Nishikata rushes to his room to see what Takagi got him: some personalized cat-themed cookies and a talking 100% Unrequited Love keychain that goes “Kyun Kyuun”. Two sweet, thoughtful gifts from someone who knows him almost better than he knows himself. Daaaawwww.

The final segment involves sneezing, or rather, how people in Japan sneeze whenever someone’s talking about them. In a clever sequence, one sneeze is followed by the mention of someone else, who is then the next to sneeze, eventually looping back to Takagi, whom Nishikata almost notes has a cute sneeze, but holds his tongue.

But even if he can’t call Takagi cute to her face (and that’s how he’d truly beat her, by the way) he at least has the wherewithal to properly thank her for her gift. As Takagi tells him he’s welcome, she walks ahead of him. He can’t see it, but she’s blushing from his thanks. Kyun Kyuun indeed!

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 04 – Brains Beat BOSS-Drinking Brawn

Nishikata is the best arm wrestler in his class, due to the fact he does three push-ups for every time Takagi teases him during the day. But all that extra brawn is for naught as long as he doesn’t exercise that most important of “muscles”—his head.

Case in point: Takagi genially challenges him to arm wrestle, and in the first round starts she pretends to be far weaker than him, and simply waits for him to let his guard down. In round two, Nishikata is done playing around, but is then flustered when she asks if he wants to hold hands walking home.

In both cases, Nishikata’s superior strength is neutralized by Takagi’s mind games. And yet all Nishikata will do as a result of his losses is do more push-ups. After all, he simply can’t predict every trick Takagi has up her sleeve. He could plan 100 moves in advance and she’d be ready with Move 101.

After Hina tries to make a big display of how mature and grown-up she is by staring out the window, sighing, and talking about the impermanence of things (mostly foods) which only leads to Yukari and Sanae laughing at her, Nishikata decides to show Takagi how mature he is by taking the advice of one of his guy mates (never a good idea) and drinking the bitterest coffee he can buy.

That coffee, clearly a non-copyright-infringing stand-in for Suntory BOSS, proves way too bitter for him to not make all the faces one expects of someone who hates coffee, and in addition to being a Teasing Master Takagi is also mastered reading Nishikata’s face.

She does the practical (and truly mature) thing and buys a delicious melon soda, and offers Nishikata a sip, pointing out it would be an indirect kiss. To accept her offer would actually show maturity on his part, since an indirect kiss shouldn’t be a big deal to a grown-up.

Not to mention Takagi isn’t about to stop teasing him even if he convincingly enjoyed a can of BOSS; she’d simply devise new ways to tease him. It’s what she does.

Finally, Takagi meets Nishikata for their walk to school, but for once without her bike. He recalls her saying something about the brakes on their last walk, and assumes that’s the reason why, but Takagi warns him that if he guesses wrong it’s an “instant loss,” so he ponders other reasons as they take detours not possible with a bike.

Ultimately, Nishikata sticks with his brake answer, thinking Takagi was throwing a bunch of other potential reasons (stairs, hopscotch, cats) as a distraction. But of course, he’s wrong. Takagi actually had two genuine reasons that he did not consider. One, she didn’t bring her bike because she wanted to watch him struggle to determine the reason. Two, she actually did, and does, want to hold hands with Nishikata, hence no bike.

Of course, whether it’s dropping her -san or sipping from her can or holding her hand, Nishikata remains nervously reticent, despite now being a second-year. Because he makes her laugh so much, this doesn’t seem to bother Takagi so much, but as Hina says, nothing lasts forever, so one would hope that applies to Takagi’s patience.

At some point, Nishikata is going to have to reckon with the fact a girl likes him, and he likes her back, and pursuing that is more important than winning and losing silly games.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 03 – A Matter of Honor(ifics)

Nishikata is eager to pull an April Fool’s Prank on Takagi, but immediately he plays himself by essentially asking her out on a date, a get-together independent from class or school. And for the record, Takagi is delighted to go on a date, even if Nishikata refuses to admit that’s exactly what it is.

The constant futile attempts to “get one over” on Takagi are simply a shallow front for the truth: Nishikata would rather Takagi were in his life than not. One need only see how morose he gets when imagining she’s not in his class when their second year starts.

Making full use of the “date” opening Nishikata so carelessly gave her, Takagi insists they attend to the sakura viewing with Yukari, Sanae, and Mina, who is constantly exercising so she can one day become a gravure model…though her friends note she is quite a bit removed from that future.

The only future Nishikata claims to want is one in which he’s not constantly teased by Takagi. Drawing from his beloved 100% Unrequited Love manga, he tries to throw her off balance by dropping the -san and simply calling her Takagi. While that certainly surprises Takagi, she’s actually fine with him doing it whenever he likes, and when challenging him to do so, he crumbles.

Still, when the second year begins and Nishikata’s desk is right back next to Takagi’s in class, he is fully committed to acting like an “upperclassman,” which means dropping her honorific. This also backfires when he proves utterly unable to follow through, combined with Takagi’s teasing. He eventually gets so caught up in it, he naturally drops -san again, which Takagi reiterates is not something she’d ever mind.

Hardly any other anime around gets away with basically rolling out the same thing over and over again, yet it almost never gets old. Perhaps that’s partly because there are always little hints and indications of progress being made on the romance front. Takagi being ever more assertive doesn’t hurt either; her “enough lies, let’s just talk” line was particularly satisfying, as was her recitation of lines from the 100% anime both she and Nishikata watch.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 02 – Breaking the Ice

It may be Summer IRL, but the days are getting colder in the world of Takagi-san, such that puddles made by rain a day ago are frozen solid the next morning. Takagi can tell Nishikata has an unbearable urge to pick that ice up, and so makes a contest out of it.

Naturally, despite Nishikata’s extensive activity in such training, she gets him to drop it by declaring whoever breaks their ice first loses, and has to warm the hands of the winner. He’s about to take her hand when she asks for the hand warmer he offered earlier. A reprieve!

Another morning, Nishikata believes he has a surefire way to get Takagi to lose, by telling her he changed something about his appearance and challenging her to correctly identify that change. This backfires spectacularly when Takagi gives him a thorough visual examination, even tickling his side and getting very close up to smell him.

In the end, Takagi correctly concludes he trimmed his hair, though whether she was going with the answer with the best odds is a mystery. Nishikata’s punishment is to try to guess how she’ll change her appearance tomorrow, knowing full well he’d never look her over as thoroughly as she just did.

After an in-between in which Mina laughs at Yukari’s bangs which she trimmed too far, Valentine’s Day arrives, and Nishikata, while telling himself he doesn’t expect any chocolate from Takagi or anyone else, is still expecting chocolate.

As Mina learns the hard way, Tanabe-sensei doesn’t tolerate the distribution of chocolate on his watch. Mano almost works up the courage to hand Nakai some non-obligatory chocolate, but his ever-present friends ruin her timing and she runs off.

Nakai may be dense but has the good sense to chase after Mano, who is able to successfully give him the chocolate (which he tells Tanabe-sensei is a book she borrowed). As for Nishikata, he goes the whole day without being given any chocolate, only to find a box in his shoe locker, obviously left there by Takagi, who tries to get him to identify her as the one who put it there.

Nishikata doesn’t give in, so Takagi keeps the mind games going by offering him a small piece of obligatory chocolate, while strongly implying that not all the chocolate she gave him is obligatory. Her status as giver of the shoe locker chocolate remains unsaid, but like many things between these two, it doesn’t really have to be said.

There’s no one else from which Nishikata would get non-obligatory chocolate, and there’s no one else to whom Takagi would give chocolate.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 01 – Beyond Teaserdome

And now, for the show I’ve been looking forward to most this Summer: the continuation of one of the more low-key charming shows about young unspoken love you’ll ever come across. There’s nothing added to the formula, but the two seem to be at about the same place they were last season, a teeny bit little closer than they used to be.

Of course, you’ll never hear Nishikata admit it. He runs all over the school asking to borrow an English textbook, just so that he doesn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of sliding his desk next to Takagi’s so she can share her book with him. That’s what happens, of course, since theirs is the only class who has English that day.

Like an adolescent Wile E. Coyote, Takagi whips up another half-baked scheme involving vertical messages hidden in notes, and while Takagi the Road Runner refuses to take the bait and turns it right back on him, culminating in a note that is full of genuine affection with no hidden message at all…something that only makes Nishikata blush more.

In the next segment (this show does a nice job breaking up its episodes into multiple skits) Takagi offers to be Nishikata’s subject to test a pendulum he made to induce hypnosis, and for a good long time, Takagi makes him believe he was successful, by wearing a glazed-over look and obeying his every command.

When he orders her to pick her nose and she’s about to do it, he blurts out that he changed his mind—believing he was an a real position of power, he proved too kindhearted to let her go through with it. But in the same moment he retreats, Takagi advances, ruthlessly tickling Takagi in his side, the vitality in her eyes fully restored.

After that, a brief entr’acte involving Mina, Sanae, and Yukari, in which Mina watched the same TV show about hypnotism and ended up hypnotised herself. The three discuss their sleep preferences, and Mina reveals that while she may seem lazy at school, she works her ass off at home, watering the garden and making breakfast and lunch for the whole family before school. No wonder her hair’s askew!

Back to Nishikata and Takagi walking home, when the former suggests they hit up the riverbed. Takagi knows full well he intends to instigate a stone-skipping contest, and offers to forfeit immediately. All he has to do is hold her hand. He refuses emphatically, and the contest proceeds.

Takagi make Nishikata choke by claiming she can skip a stone 30 times, so that her modest three-skip stone beats out his zero skips. But when he’s a bit too excited about finding another perfect stone, they bump bums and she starts falling towards the water. In that moment, Nishikata grabs her hand and pulls her away from the river with such force that he ends up throwing himself in the drink.

If Nishikata ever wanted to truly catch Takagi off guard, this was the time. Alas, he refuses to admit they actually held hands, giving her the automatic win. Still, the fact he saved her at the cost of his own personal dryness is still more proof she won’t be losing interest in him anytime soon.

The mundane setting is bright and cheerful. Takahashi Rie and Kaji Yuki demonstrate their ample seiyu chops with their sensitive and nuanced performances. The characters are lovingly drawn, animated, and lit. Takagi-san is back. We are all better for it.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 12 (Fin) – A Gentle Nudge Past the Status Quo

The last episode of KJT starts with a long shot of Takagi looking over at Nishikata without trying to look like she’s looking. It’s the first time we’ve seen her since Nishikata unwittingly made her heart go dokidoki, and when we hear that the girls in class are on a letter-writing kick, it’s natural to assume Takagi would join in.

When Nishikata finds a love letter in his textbook, he does everything he can to keep that information from Takagi…right up until she tells him she put it there, she wants him to read it before school ends, because she wants his “answer” by then.

When Nishikata discovers the “love” letter is really just a written request to walk home together like they always do, Takagi gets the reaction she wanted. But in a way, it was a love letter, albeit a coded one: Nishikata’s reactions provide her nearly as much info as direct words.

Her ability to read him like a large-print book goes back to when they first met and spoke, back on their very first day of school. Nishikata is late, but not because he overslept. Takagi senses he wants to set the record straight, and her first words to her new desk neighbor are “you didn’t really oversleep, right?”

Later, Takagi is the one who’s late, giving Nishikata cover, but also sets up her first guessing game with Nishikata, correctly guessing he was late because he found her handkerchief and brought it to the staff room.

Nishikata (unaware that she was “Takagi-san” until just then) reacts in the over-the-top flustered manner we’re used to by now—only it’s the first time Takagi is watching it. From that day onward, she was hooked.

Back in the present, Nishikata receives bad news: there’s to be a seat rearrangement. Nishikata pretends it doesn’t bother him, but Takagi doesn’t hide her dispiritedness, which in turn makes Nishikata dispirited. The status quo is at stake!

Nishikata ends up joining someone else despondent over the rearrangement: Mano-chan, who was perfectly content next to her boyfriend Nakai-kun, and whose life is now essentially over. Then Nishikata loses his one chance to switch seats with Kimura-kun, and sinks into his new desk of despair beside Mano-chan.

Thankfully, things didn’t end there: through a number of seat switches, Mano and Nakai end up up front together, while Takagi returns to Nishikata’s side. Nishikata can barely hide his relief.

Then she asks what he wanted to say earlier, and he produces her handkerchief, which she used to bandage his knee a while back, and which also brought them together on the first day of school. Nishikata expresses his gratitude he was able to return it, and that they’re next to each other again; the feeling is mutual. For once, he says what he feels without worrying about being teased.

That night, while inspecting her hankie, a little note slips out, and suddenly Takagi is in the same position Nishikata is when he found the love letter in his book. It’s no confession, just a simple “Thank you”…but it’s another critical hit on Takagi, who plops onto the bed and buries her head in her pillow, giddy with delight.

It would be an understatement to say I’ll miss Takagi and Nishikata. Could I watch the duo grow closer and closer together as they enter high school, college, and eventually adulthood? You BETCHA. But since that’s sadly unlikely to happen, I have to be satisfied with the snippet of their lives that we got. And I am, very much so!

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 11

Since the new school term it seems like our lovebirds have been in a holding pattern, and the blame for that rests entirely on Nishikata, who continues to misinterpret pretty much everything Takagi says and does, and remains stubbornly obsessed with getting one over on her, despite the fact Wile E Coyote had more success chasing Road Runner.

When Takagi approaches a cat so easily, Nishikata is too proud to say he likes cats too, even though Takagi is already keenly aware of that fact, since Nishikata is such an open book. She rarely takes what he says at face value without challenging it in some way. Nishikata often accurately predicts Takagi’s behavior or responses, but where Takagi flaunts her ability to read his mind, he’s always second-guessing what he thinks is in hers…and almost always pays for it.

In art class, we find Nishikata and Takagi drawing portraits of one another, and right from the start I’m wondering: did they choose to draw each other, or were they assigned? Regardless, Nishikata tries to be funny by drawing how he “envisions” Takagi—like a monster—but she draws him exactly as he is, perpetually blushing around her with eyes to the side. The class likely can’t help but feel the chemistry.

The next day Takagi has her fortune told by a classmate handy with Tarot. After losing a game of rock-paper-scissors, meaning she has to help Nishikata clean, she tells him what it was about: she’ll do well with her crush. She even gets Nishikata’s fortune: he’ll do well with his crush too.

There were moments in this segment when I thought for sure Nishikata would let something slip, but instead, he has a revelation: circumstances definitely point towards Takagi liking him; she did lose the game on purpose, after all.

Further, Nishikata correctly analyzes his reactions to this kind of talk with the assertion that he likes Takagi. He quickly dismisses the thought in his head, but the seed has been planted.

The day after that, Nishikata has a very favorable horoscope, essentially invincible for the day, which for him means he’ll finally strike a blow against Takagi. Takagi, naturally, knows he’s both a Cancer and correctly predicted he’s Type O, and so knows he has an invincible aura.

Yet…nothing happens out of the ordinary. Nishikata is teased his usual several dozen times, and laments the 150 push-ups he’ll have to do when he gets home. Yet it’s only after he agrees without a thought to walk home with Takagi that he realizes he still has a chance to deal a “critical hit.”

While walking home, Nishikata and Takagi run into Nishikata’s friends, who invite him to their house to play a video game. We then cut to Nishikata still with Takagi. He refused the invite, and when Takagi asks if he’s okay not going with the boys, he says yes…because “I wanted to walk home with you anyway.”

Those words cause Takagi to gasp and stop dead in her tracks, but Nishikata is too busy straining to think how he can deal a blow to Takagi to realize he just dealt her one. That is, until he considers what he just said to be “super awkward” and runs off in embarrassment, believing he only managed to scored a hit on himself.

But he’s sorely mistaken. His hit on Takagi was indeed critical, and it went straight to her heart, something she says is “terrifying” before getting on her bike and riding the rest of the way home blushing just as brightly as Nishikata usually does, with an bashful smirk on her face.

It’s one of the best moments from one of the best characters I’ve come across this season. Raw, honest, and true to her personality. Can Nishikata get over the embarrassment and continue telling Takagi the things she wants to hear, or does she have to be content with him letting things slip then halfheartedly taking them back? We’ll see what next week’s finale has in store.